Monday, February 26, 2007

Play One More for My Radio Sweetheart.

I’ve been abroad the airwaves quite a bit recently. The first few times this happens it’s tremendously exciting, and there is a palpable air of hushed reverence as you are guided down labyrinthine corridors by a welcoming PA, gifted with coffee and asked to wait in The Green Room before being summoned through to the studio, issued with headphones and asked to comment for posterity’s sake on whatever it is you were invited in for in the first place. After a while, especially in a town the size of ours, you tend to get buzzed in at reception by the DJ currently working in the studio on his own, make your way to the water cooler and hang out there for a bit until he’s had a chance to set off the prerecorded interview from earlier on and nip out to ask if you’ve brought in copies of the CDs you want to play. It’s not all ordering stuff up from the library and flirting with the girl doing the traffic in the world of radio, you know. We in Songs From The Blue House have been grateful recipients of a number of interviews and sessions during our short but productive time together, mainly based on years of hard work beforehand in a number of bands and projects where individually and collectively we garnered a reputation for ourselves of being able to turn up on time, being broadly capable of stringing three or more sentences together in a row and being able to be relied upon not to say ‘fuck’ live on air. Hence the three main prerequisites of being interviewees are fulfilled and we get put on the roster of people to call in on a periodic basis. The last time I was in was to talk about my role as an “influential local musician”, which I believe broadly translated as maintaining the above mentioned requirements whilst in addition not being so bitter about my palpable lack of chart success as to spend half an hour laying waste to the talents of every other musician I can recall from the nineties. I believe the official term for this sort of behaviour is “A safe pair of hands”. As I say, demonstrating these sorts of characteristics can be terribly handy as before we’d even played live or hit the recording studio it meant that we were in the live lounge at Radio Suffolk performing the only three songs we had at the time, and Drivetime’s Stephen Foster was introducing us with the moniker we bear to this day (purely on the basis that we’d described the process of songwriting at James’s house, mentioning in passing that he’d painted it Ipswich Town blue) as Foz had nothing else to call us after he’d already invested in the phrase “…and now, performing live….”. Tragically, the best and most interesting vignette of the afternoon – the apocryphal story of how one Charlie Simpson used to come to our gigs and stand at the back comparing notes with his drummer friend and hence how I was therefore directly responsible for the career of Busted – passed off-mic in the middle of the roadworks update, and somehow the subject didn’t come up again during the remaining ten minutes of the interview.
We were also on a community station which verged on the boundaries of piracy during our early days – I believe it was the first time I met our mandolin player incidentally - which was not such an enervating experience, as one of the enduring tenets of the live radio experience is not to say “Um” before every answer. To say it before every question betrayed the fracturing of concentration that can occur in a DJ when they’ve trapped their trouser leg in their bike chain on the way to the studio and are ten minutes late opening up as a result. The poor bloke had to put on a twenty minute psychedelic wig-out on first up just to give him time to get his breath back, and there was a growing realization that we’d been invited on to a show where research was perhaps not top of the “to do” list when our answers to questions like “How many in the band?” and “What do you play?” were greeted not so much with seamless links to the next subject but genuine surprise. “Really!? A flute, you say!?” I don’t think the engineer was expecting a six piece acoustic band to turn up either, but did a manful job, and one of the songs from the resulting session was released as on a free CD by the station, complete with the DJ describing what we looked like on the station’s internal CCTV cameras on the outro. Not great radio, but endearing.
Hence James and I approach our next venture with the all propriety as we have been deemed such a safe pair of hands that we have been invited to compile our own twenty minutes of recorded history to be, ahem, Podcast to the world. We’ve got twenty minutes of ‘air’ time to fill with three songs and our reflections upon them, which is a marvelous opportunity to plug our own forthcoming album. Being the altruistic old bears we are, we are of course digging out a couple of forthcoming things that we’ve heard in the studio while we’ve been working on, or taking a break from, banjo overdubs and we’re going to enthuse about them instead. Well, what goes around and all that. Hopefully we’ll be able to call on the expertise of Simon Talbot, out of The Urban Sofa Beat Collective, with whom I recently shared an interesting couple of on-air hours reflecting on the role of seventeenth century optometry in the folk ballad tradition, and whose professional experience extends as far as being ‘Producer Simon’ on the short-lived Picturehouse ICR radio show “Your New Favourite Record”, as well as ‘Doctor Pop’ on Oman Airways’ in-flight entertainment package, where he also rejoiced in the rather distressing sobriquet ‘Gaz Bender’, renowned presenter of “What’s Up Kids?”.Under his guidance and tutelage we feel sure that we can present an egg-suckingly good show, and with his bespoke editing software we can certainly rid ourselves of the occasional “Um” and repetitive “err…” we’re bound to drop in to the first draft. To “Er” is, after all, human.

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